Play 4: Vs. Stanford, 2nd quarter, 15:00 remaining, 3rd & 5
What the offense is running: Shotgun set, deep cross by the X-receiver and tight end. The slot runs an out, while the Z-receiver is running a comeback.
What the defense is running: Two-deep man coverage.
What Murphy is tasked to do: Defend the Z-receiver running a comeback with off-man coverage.
What happens: Murphy is supposed to guard a timing route on the outside. When the Z-receiver breaks to flip his switch and turn around, the quarterback throws the ball, in turn, letting the receiver turn into the pass. However, that doesn’t quite work out for the big-bodied receiver.
Murphy backpedals appropriately throughout the route, as he may expect it to be a vertical stemming route. When the receiver turns around, he’s immediately met by physical man-to-man coverage by Murphy, which, in turn, ruins the timing of the route. The receiver has to adjust, but Murphy already has the winning leverage.
With that winning leverage combined with Murphy’s acute awareness, the cornerback is ultimately able to make a play on the ball before the receiver can. The result of that is Murphy showing off his hands, plucking the ball before the receiver can catch it and ultimately changing the outcome of the play.
- As we’ve seen before (and I’ve said), Murphy is an exceptionally explosive athlete out of his breaks; he’s simply a quick twitch cornerback. So, when he’s in situations like off-man coverage and the route is a comeback, he will win those battles because he can break on the ball so fast.
- The physicality in off-man coverage is one of the better aspects of Murphy’s game. His ability to disrupt receivers routes with heavy hands and an understanding of leverage points aren’t only useful, but legal in the next level — excellent physicality and technique.
- This is a common trend that can’t be overstated; Murphy plays the ball, not the receiver. Most of these clips are just that, as well as this one. He’s constantly aware of where it is and continues to play quarterback’s eyes to anticipate the next step. Combine his ball-hawking demeanor with his burst and physicality means he projects as an ideal fit in shallow zones.